Women’s Rights Advocate Released From Jail by Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT, Lebanon — One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent activists, Loujain al-Hathloul, was released on Wednesday after the kingdom had jailed her for nearly three years on charges that Western governments and rights groups roundly dismissed as politically motivated.

“Loujain is at home,” Ms. al-Hathloul’s sister Lina wrote on Twitter with a photo of herself grinning widely during a video call with her sister. Another sister, Alia, wrote that Ms. al-Hathloul had returned to the family’s home in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and said her release marked “the best day of my life.”

Ms. al-Hathloul, 31, rose to prominence for publicly challenging the ban on driving and other legal restrictions that Saudi Arabia imposed on women under the so-called “guardianship system.”

Even though the driving ban was lifted in 2018 and some of the restrictions have been loosened as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform efforts, Ms. al-Hathloul was arrested in May 2018 and tried for a number of charges including seeking to change the kingdom’s political system and communicating with foreign diplomats and journalists.

Saudi officials insisted the charges had nothing to do with her activism.

A judge sentenced her in December to five years and eight months in prison, but suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence. She was also given credit for time served, which apparently led to her release on Wednesday.

Despite her release from custody, where her family and human rights groups said she had been tortured and sexually harassed, she is not technically free. Her sentence included three years of probation and a five-year ban on traveling outside of Saudi Arabia.

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